In the movies motions slow down in these scenes. Voices get distorted in slow capture, the protagonist stares at the physician’s mouth but is unable to make out what he (or she, but rarely) is saying. “You have cancer.” Or: “You may have cancer.” It is supposed to be lay person speak, but the brain is scheming and plotting and tries to mess with you. It doesn’t compute. “There is surgery, and first radiation therapy to shrink the tumor.” In the movies, the protagonist hears “Death. Death. Death. Death.” Ad infinitum. And then there is a nervous breakdown.
She looks down on the papery table cloth draped over that tiny table. The gynecologist and her having a nice little chat over charts and survival rates. A clock is ticking somewhere. “Miss Reynolds? We’ll have to run some tests to be sure, all we know is there is a lump. It could be benign, very likely is. We just want to make sure, don’t we?”
She notices a flower in a beige pot on the window sill. It sure is nice in here. Elegant understatement in interior design.
“Yes, I’m sorry. So you are saying I have cancer.” The softness in her physician’s eyes. The fine lines around her eyes as she replies. “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. I’ll make an appointment for you at the mammography center. Here’s their address. You’ll likely get in this week. Until then try to remain calm.” In the movies the doctors talk too fast and are impatient: ready to get rid of their dying patients, these soon-to-be corpses. Not her’s. Not here. She nods. Gets up. Shakes a hand. Gets out. Walks towards the metro. The note with the radiology department’s number and location feels warm in her coat pocket.
There is a bar around the corner and the distance to her bedroom, living room, kitchen and vodka stash is too long to bear. She sits down at the counter and orders clear alcohol, a steady flow of molecules: later the brain chemistry should be altered enough to make a return back home feasible. Useful even. She could check online how to get to the center. She could read up on treatment options. It’s cancer. “I’ll have another one!” The barkeeper is jaded and refrains from commenting on her speed. She drinks fast, routinely and precise. The warmth rises from her stomach through her throat and into her cheeks. Onto her lips. She does pride herself on her full lips, and she licks them now to trace their form and composition. Should she like what they feel like? She decides that she should; and also that she needs a bathroom break. The coat, the valuables. They’ll have to come with. Where is the bathroom? She trudges through the dimly lit main room towards the restrooms. She feels decidedly not drunk. It’s a little hot in here, but she can still think, which she does, and it is not to her liking. “Maybe I’ll speed things up,” she thinks, but wait, did she really only think this? Or why is that guy staring at her.
“Hello.” She says. “Hello,” he answers. His jeans are dark and his shirt seems out of place: ironed. Clean. His hair is flattened to his head. She touches her lips with her fingers. Her lips are healthy and full and he notices. Tomorrow she’ll have to call the center and press her breast between two glass plates until they are flattened like the planet used to be. In a minute she’ll be switching to whiskey sour. Right now she steps towards him and asks “Do you want to have sex with me?” He nods, decidedly unsurprised she notices, and follows her into the ladies’ room. There is a stall. There are sentences written in black marker all over the doors and walls. There is too little space and his head is on her neck. Her hands inside his pants, already. “I don’t have much time,” she whispers, and he pulls her T-shirt over her head. Down goes the bra.
She tries to cover her breasts but her hands are too small. He notices and leans back. “A little late to be ashamed now, isn’t it?” She smiles weakly. “It’s not that.” They stand there in lockdown, nothing goes. Finally, she drops her arms to her side. She watches for repulsion in his face, but can’t find it. Looking down she sees her breast is still deformed, still sick. “I think I have cancer,” she finally says and is prepared to pick up her shirt and leave. But he shakes his head and is dead-serious as he begins with the story.
“You do not have cancer. Your breasts are perfect. You see, you’re an example of humans evolving. Look how sexy you are. You are a new being, free, sexual, no procreational constraints. That’s why your breast is shaped differently. That’s all. You’re beyond normal because you are better.” He leans forward and licks her neck. Breathing out. “He’s right. It’s not cancer. It’s not cancer.” She closes her eyes. She feels thankful.